Puyo Puyo Tetris was quietly one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch when it launched last year. Its fast-paced mashup of elements from Puyo Puyo and Tetris was a delight for four-player couch play. Now Sushi Striker has a chance to pick up the baton and carry forward the Switch's reputation as a great local multiplayer console.
Developed by indieszero—the Japanese studio responsible for Retro Game Challenge, Theatrhyhm Final Fantasy, and NES Remix—Sushi Striker is a rapid-fire action puzzle game where you build combos by connecting different plates of sushi. It was first announced for the Nintendo 3DS last year, then later confirmed for the Switch. Like the rest of indieszero's portfolio, Sushi Striker has a strikingly fun and colorful art style, which helps it to stand out on Nintendo's family of handheld consoles.
The concept behind it is fairly simple. You face off against an opponent across four conveyer belts of sushi, you goal being to connect as many plates of the same color as possible. This is accomplished by selecting one plate of sushi and then dragging your finger (or the cursor) to adjacent plates above, below, and to the side before they have a chance to scoot off the screen. As you match up to 10 plates, they build on the table in front of your character, where they can subsequently be flung at your opponent.
It's a setup that's clearly built with the 3DS in mind. The drag mechanics are well-suited for the 3DS' stylus, and using a controller to select sushi can feel cumbersome. I was most comfortable when I was playing in the Switch's handheld mode and using my finger to swipe up sushi like I would a mobile game.
The awkwardness of playing with a controller is exacerbated by the speed at which sushi whips past. The conveyor belts move so fast that you hardly have time to think, forcing you into a reactive stance in which you instictively recognize plate patterns. If you stop to think for even a moment, you will fall behind in a hurry.
It's hard, but it's also addictive. Matches go by quickly, and when you lose, you instantly want to try again. Its natural draw is further enhanced by the ability to unlock up to 50 characters, all of whom have special abilities that can be activated once you've pulled enough combos. Jinrai, for example, a young ninja, has Sushi Bonanza—an ability that makes all plates the same color. The wide variety of characters in turn augments the local multiplayer, encouraging you to experiment and find your favorite.
It's an outstanding mix from a veteran developer, and it's immediately apparent that it will be a blast to play long-term. It's a natural fit for the Switch and the 3DS, where couch play has thus far thrived. Assuming it holds up, it has a chance to join Mario Kart, Puyo Puyo Tetris and eventually Super Smash Bros. as a top-tier local multiplayer offering on the Switch.
Topping it all off is a sizable single-player campaign, which includes some 150 missions in all. It features a light storyline, bosses, and animated cutscenes, as well as a host of challenging matches against CPU foes. I'll confess, the story is a bit too real for me in some ways (seriously). It's meant to be a tongue-in-cheek look at a world where sushi is a precious commodity, but with real-world fish stocks in serious danger around the world, it can't help hitting me in a painful spot. If you've ever seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you know what I mean.
Anyway, Sushi Strikers isn't exactly a trenchant commentary on overfishing. It's a game where one of the initial villains is a guy who looks like a refugee from Cho Aniki—the homoerotic shoot 'em up from Masaya. It's cute, light, and exactly the kind of game that I can see myself getting lost in during a long cross-country flight.
Sushi Strikers is part of an ongoing flood of high-quality handheld games for the Switch. Already it's getting hard for these games to distinguish themselves amid the rush, especially with the eShop being what it is. But Sushi Strikers has the gameplay and the pedigree to stand apart from the rest. Slightly cumbersome controls aside, it's pretty much the complete package. I look forward to playing it when it comes out on both 3DS and Switch on June 8.